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Recap / The New Batman Adventures E21 "Mad Love"

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This episode was adapted from an Eisner Award-winning one-shot special-issue graphic novel of The Batman Adventures, the tie-in comic of Batman: The Animated Series.
Comissioner Gordon goes to the dentist as part of a required health checkup, voicing his displeasure all the while. This displeasure proves especially well-founded this time when it's revealed that The Joker and Harley Quinn have taken the place of his dentist and the assistant in order to kill him. Fortunately for Gordon, Batman bursts in just before Joker can start drilling into Gordon's skull, revealing that he quickly worked out a chattering teeth toy clue about this latest caper. Seemingly just to rub it in, Batman tells the Joker the chattering teeth gag is rather lackluster for him, only for Harley to reveal (to the Joker's further irritation) that the clue was her idea. Annoyed but undeterred, the Joker tosses Gordon a grenade, keeping Batman busy so that he and Harley can escape.

Later, in his latest lair in an abandoned toy factory, Joker is trying to come up with a new plan. Harley tries to seduce him and feed him a few ideas of her own, but the Joker berates her for her lack of creativity and angrily blows them off. The Joker then momentarily reconsiders one of his scrapped plans to kill Batman in a tank of piranhas, but suddenly remembers that he couldn't find a way to get the piranhas to smile, ruining the joke potential. Harley makes one last effort to seduce the Joker, but he kicks her out. She then laments her plight at not being able to advance her relationship with her puddin', and blames Batman for this.

In a flashback, Harley then recalls when she was just Dr. Harleen Quinzel, a fresh new intern at Arkham Asylum. The Joker somehow managed to smuggle a rose with a card into her office, so Harleen went to ask him about it. The Joker's initial attempts at seducing her were unsuccessful until he offered to tell her his biggest secrets. She then set up an appointment with the Joker, confident that his psychological tricks wouldn't work on her. However, the Joker's sob story about his past ultimately won her over. Beginning to sympathize with the Joker, Harley eventually came to believe the narrative he spun her during their following sessions, where he painted himself as merely being a humble, misunderstood soul who only wants to make people laugh, suffering unfair prosecution at hands of the law and the villainous Batman in particular.

Some time later, after the Joker escaped for a week and Batman came dragging him back to Arkham beaten and bruised, Harley lost it. In a fury at Batman for his "brutality" she stole several pieces of merchandise from a novelty store and put them together into her costume as a super-villain and broke the Joker out of his cell, adopting the "Harley Quinn" name he'd suggested to her earlier while seducing her.

Returning in the present, Harley now plots to make one of the Joker's scrapped plans work after all in order to get rid of Batman so she can finally be happy with her puddin'. She lures Batman with a tape warning of the Joker planning a Roaring Rampage of Revenge and offering to turn him in to the police in exchange for immunity, and captures him when he falls for it.

Batman wakes up hanging over a tank of piranhas just as the Joker plotted. Harley proudly explains to him that she has successfully modified the Joker's plan: By hanging the victim upside down, the fish will seem to be smiling. She goes on to tell Batman that successfully killing him will be a testament of her love to the Joker, meaning the two can finally settle down. When she tells him this, Batman is at first incredulous and then, to her surprise and disquiet, bursts into laughter at her gullibility. When he finally stops laughing, he explains that the story about his childhood that Joker told her back in Arkham was just one of several he's told to win the sympathy of various people who've tried to analyze him over the years. Hurt and infuriated, Harley starts to lower Batman into the tank, but he convinces Harley to call the Joker first, saying that he won't believe she has succeeded in killing his greatest foe unless he sees it for himself.

When the Joker arrives, Harley happily welcomes him only for him to beat and berate her, insisting that he wants to be the one to kill Batman. When she tries explaining that technically he is killing Batman since the Death Trap was his plan and that she merely improved upon his design, he points out that her having to explain why it "works" means it's not funny and therefore not worthy of being one of his jokes. In a fury, he then slaps Harley around, sending her reeling out a window and taking a fall from several stories up into a pile of rubbish in the alley. Injured and barely conscious, she feebly groans at her mistake as the police arrive, blaming herself for not getting the "joke" in the Joker's methods.

The Joker, meanwhile, is just about to release Batman, hoping to put this whole embarrassing incident behind him, when it occurs to him to try shooting Batman after all while he still has him at his mercy. Batman, however, is no longer incapacitated and escapes by breaking the tank open and getting hold of his belt while the Joker is distracted so he can pick the padlock on his chains. The Joker makes a run for it and escapes by jumping on a train, only to find Batman has caught up with him again. Rubbing it in, Batman explains that his Batman Gambit of getting Harley to call him was his only hope for escape, and that Harley came closer to killing him than The Joker ever did. Furious at these humiliating taunts, the Joker attacks, trading blows until Batman knocks him off the train and into a smokestack.

Later, as a newscaster reports the disastrous outcome to the Joker's latest caper on TV, an intern at Arkham wheels the heavily bruised and bandaged Harley to her holding cell. In an internal monologue, the much-chastened Harlene Quinzel tells herself that she finally sees the Joker for what he really is, and resolves to get over him and get on with her life. As she lies recuperating in her cell, however, she sees a rose with a "Feel Better Soon" card from him, and promptly tumbles right back into her Mad Love with him again.


  • Abuse Discretion Shot: When Harley runs to greet the Joker, he slaps her. The camera pans away as he raises his arm, cuts to Batman flinching, then shows Harley falling to the floor.
  • Adaptational Badass: The cartoon makes Batman tougher than in the comic. He's actually singed by the Joker's grenade in the opening, and the flashback with Batman returning Joker to Arkham had both of them looking beat-up rather than just the Joker.
  • Adaptational Heroism: While she doesn't deserve how she ends up in either version, the graphic novel shows us several more of Harley's failings that aren't in the cartoon, attributing her tragic downfall more to her being lazy and weak-willed than to the Joker's sociopathic superficial charm and talent for manipulation. In college, the graphic novel heavily implies, she was sleeping with at least one of her professors to get a better grade she didn't feel like studying hard to earn, and she only wanted a prestigious psychology degree in order to make lots of money selling faux therapy books as a psychologist fraud.
  • Adaptation Distillation: The episode removed the sequence of Joker furiously driving over to Harley and Batman, running over a pedestrian and having an Imagine Spot where he imagined the other rogues ridiculing him for being outshone by his girlfriend. It also removed Harley's Imagine Spots of her and Joker having children and growing old together. As noted in Bowdlerise below, some parts were also removed in order to make the story slightly more child-friendly.
  • Adaptation Explanation Extrication: The episode cuts out the line in the comic where Harley explains to Batman that she had to raid every aquarium and fish hobbyist in Gotham to get enough piranhas for the death trap.
  • Adapted Out: Alfred appeared in the original graphic novel, where Batman relayed the stuff about Harley which was cut out. Harvey Bullock and Renee Montoya also appeared briefly, both in a scene where Gordon receives a call about the Joker (racing on his way to Harley after she captures Batman) and being the ones who found Harley after the Joker knocked her through the window. Bullock also appeared in the scene where Gordon showed Batman Harley's video in the comic.
  • Alas, Poor Villain: Harley falls madly in love with The Joker who obviously doesn’t love her back and only plays with her emotions to do whatever he wants. When she actually manages to capture Batman in an attempt to impress Joker, Batman crushes her heart by saying the Joker doesn’t love anything except himself. It's only confirmed when the Joker arrives and literally throws Harley out the window and almost kills her. And even then she blames herself.
    Harley: My fault. I didn't get the joke.
  • Armor-Piercing Question: Harley insists that the Joker is more sympathetic than most people think, saying, "He told me things! Secret things he never told anybody!". Batman immediately deflates that position by asking, "Was it his line about the abusive father? Or the one about the runaway mom? He's gained a lot of sympathy with that one."
  • Art Evolution: The original graphic novel was made during the Batman: The Animated Series era and Bruce Timm used those designs when he did the comics; the episode was made during the New Batman Adventures and no attempt was made to give Batman or the Joker designs in the modified style that harkens back to the Batman: TAS era during the flashback.
  • Artistic License – Biology: The piranhas are drawn looking more like generic reddish fish with sharp teeth rather than actually being piranha-like, which are mostly dark grey, only having a reddish underside.
  • Asshole Victim: Batman tossing the Joker down a smokestack is completely justified after what he did to Harley. This is one of the few times he seems to break his Thou Shalt Not Kill rule, as throwing someone down a smokestack in real life would almost certainly be fatal. Being the Joker, he survives anyway.
  • Audience Surrogate: Dr. Harleen Quinzel during her first session with the Joker, where she laughs at his reenactment of wearing his dad's huge pants, only to gasp on hearing that the Joker's father then broke his nose.
  • Backstory: For Harley Quinn.
  • Batman Gambit:
    • Provides the current page image. Batman escapes by getting Harley to call the Joker, as Batman knows the Joker wants to be the only one to kill him.
    • It's rarely mentioned, but Harley's plan to trap Batman fits too, pretending that the Joker has taken her hostage in order to exploit his sympathy and crime-fighting nature and lure him into a trap. (That's right, Batman himself was tricked by Harley's Batman Gambit!)
  • Big Damn Heroes: Just another night's work for Batman.
  • Big "WHAT?!": How Joker answers the phone while he's going through all his plans until he can no longer ignore the ringing.
  • Bill... Bill... Junk... Bill...: The brooding Joker summarily rejects possible capers one after the other as being "Boring. Lame. Not funny. Been done. Too Riddler!"
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Joker started off treating Dr. Quinzel with courtesy, though leaving a rose in her office was creepy. He never shows any of the abuse that became standard in their relationship until she busted him out of Arkham.
  • Bond Villain Stupidity: Harley waits for Batman to wake up in the Death Trap before explaining to him her plan, and explaining her motives. This leads to Batman's Batman Gambit when he convinces her to call the Joker so that Mr. J will believe that she actually killed him.
  • Bowdlerise:
    • Harley's unethical "extra-curricular activities" in her college days aren't mentioned in the cartoon.
    • Harley's nightie is more see-through in the graphic novel.
    • The Joker does some muffled swearing in his sleep.
    • Batman tells Harley of a sob story the Joker uses about growing up with an alcoholic mom which is changed to a runaway mom in the cartoon.
    • Harley chain-smoking and drinking from anxiety in the flashback when Joker escaped is absent.
    • When Batman brings a battered Joker back to Arkham in the flashback, both are far more bloodied and battered in the comic than in the cartoon.
    • The injured Harley at the end is shown lying in a small puddle of her blood, whereas in the cartoon her injuries are all internal.
  • Break Them by Talking: Batman rips Harley's life apart, telling her all the stories Joker's told people over the years, including one that's nearly 1:1 with a story he told her, proving that she means nothing to him.
  • Brick Joke: In an Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking gripe, the Joker snaps at Harley not to call him "puddin'". Batman overhears and makes a point of calling Joker that at the end of his "The Reason You Suck" Speech.
  • Brutal Honesty: Batman does not sugar-coat how Harley's relationship with the Joker is unhealthy. For the next minute, he rips into her about how the Joker is a narcissist who never loved Harley beyond having a henchgirl to kick around.
  • Call-Back: The Joker remembers his plan to feed Batman to smiling piranhas, which he had to scrap as he couldn't get them to smile, noting that they were even immune to his venom from "The Laughing Fish" which worked so well on other species.
  • Call-Forward: Dr. Leland was once Dr. Harleen Quinzel's supervisor at Arkham; in the present she's the latter's main psychiatrist in the aslyum.
  • The Cameo: Poison Ivy during Harley's flashback.
  • Cerebus Syndrome: For the DCAU Joker as a whole, after this it was hard to see Joker as anything other than the soulless monster that he is. The appalling and brutal domestic abuse shown here is still very hard to stomach.
  • Chronic Villainy: All it takes is a single rose and a note from Mr. J for Harley to go tumbling back into her old habits with him.
  • A Day in the Limelight: Harley is the star here, of course.
  • Decoy Backstory: A flashback reveals that Dr. Harleen Quinzel grew to sympathize with the Joker after he told her about his traumatic childhood growing up with an abusive, misanthropic father, which helped motivate her decision to join him as Harley Quinn. In the climax of the episode, Batman reveals that this was just one of many fake backstories that the Joker has used to fish for sympathy, leaving Harley devastated.
  • Delayed Reaction: When Harley calls Joker to tell him she has Batman captured in a death trap, it takes a few moments for what she says to sink in.
    Joker: Harley? Oh, where the heck have you been, hm? Ah. Uh-huh. Yeah, yeah. Batman, eh? Well, you don't say. Uh— YOU HAVE WHO TIED UP WHERE?!
  • Destination Defenestration: Joker is so furious at Harley that he smacks her out the window, causing her to fall several stories to the ground below in a pile of rubble.
  • Disney Villain Death:
    • Triple subverted. Joker attempts to escape from Batman by leaping off the roof and grabbing onto the railing on the neighbouring roof. The railing collapses under the sudden weight, sending him plummeting to his doom... but actually he landed on a passing monorail train. Batman and Joker have a fight on the train's roof and Batman sends Joker flying off into the smokestack of a factory below to his apparent doom. The very end shows he... somehow... escaped dying from that too.
    • Also subverted with Harley, whom Joker knocks out a third-story window. She's badly injured, but survives and is shown recovering in Arkham at the end.
  • Domestic Abuse: The Joker really ramps it up in this episode. Practically every scene has him physically abusing Harley, especially when she calls him "puddin" even though it's meant as an Affectionate Nickname, making the whole thing seem extra cruel. At one point he kicks her down the stairs into the hyena pen and makes her spend the night there, and, worst of all, he shoves her out a window near the end and nearly kills her.
  • Don't Explain the Joke: Played for Drama. After Harley invites Joker to see her plan to execute Batman in action, she unknowingly makes the mistake of explaining why it's funny. This backfires, sending Joker (who's already pissed off) into an absolute rage. As he puts it, "If you have to explain a joke, there is no joke!"
  • Downer Ending: Dear God is it one. Harley's attempt to prove herself to her Mistuh Jay results in the most epic Epic Fail of her career, she's almost killed, the Joker gets away and survives what would be certain death for anyone else, as he always does, and Harley's brief moment of sanity at the end, seeing the Joker for what he is, vanishes very quickly. The only good thing here is that Batman is really able to get the better of the villain, but it's still not much.
  • Easily Forgiven: The episode ends with Harley, having been shown inarguable proof that Joker was manipulating her from the start, never really loved her, and beaten so badly she was nearly killed by him, deciding to genuinely give up crime. Then she sees a rose from Mr. J with a message to "feel better soon" in her cell at Arkham and instantly falls back in love with him.
  • Excellent Judge of Character: When Harley explains her motivations to Batman, he has a good laugh at her expense. Then he delineates exactly what kind of person the Joker is, how he really sees Harley, and without telling her, calculates correctly that her obsession for the Joker may be used to hand her a self-defeat.
    • The Joker towards Harley Quinn as well, just as Batman tells Harley:
    Batman: [Joker] had you pegged for hired help the minute you walked into Arkham.
  • Explain, Explain... Oh, Crap!: Downplayed example, since rather than having an "Oh, Crap!" reaction it's more of just annoyance. Joker finds one of his old scrapped plans of killing Batman by lowering him into a tank of smiling piranhas and momentarily regains his vigor. But as he is talking through the plan, he suddenly remembers why he scrapped the plan in the first place, since he could never get the piranhas to smile.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Subverted; Harley pretends to confess that Joker is planning to destroy the city and "it's not funny". Batman meets with her and sees the "bombs," while protecting her from a seemingly vengeful Joker. Harley admits that it was all a ruse to lure him into a trap.
  • Evil Laugh: From Batman, since the idea of Harley being with The Joker is just that ridiculous to him. Harley's never heard it before, and begs him to stop, as he's creeping her out.
    • The Joker also gives one when Harleen dons her supervillain costume for the first time. The graphic novel further plays up the idea that he takes amusement in seeing how he's managed to sweet talk her into being hired help.
  • Fake Defector: Harley lures Batman into her trap with a message claiming she's turned against the Joker because he's planning to kill everyone in Gotham City.
  • Fatal Flaw: The Joker's massive ego is shown to be his biggest enemy. Not only does his obsession with killing Batman cause Harley to snap out of her infatuation with him on two separate occasions, albeit temporarily, he actively interrupts Harley using one of his own plans to kill Batman purely because he was jealous she managed to make it work. Batman even points this out later.
  • First-Name Ultimatum: Joker shouting: "HAAAAARRRR-LEEEEY!"
  • Flashback: How Harley's backstory is revealed. The panels are sepia-tinted in the comic, but remain in color in the animated adaptation.
  • Foe Romance Subtext: Harley sees this as the reason she must Murder the Hypotenuse: Batman being that hypotenuse.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • The Joker gets mad at Harley for creating a crappy gag with the chattering teeth and making a pun after she gasses Batman. In the climax he delivers a No-Holds-Barred Beatdown to Harley for trying to kill Batman using his scheme, since only he can do it.
    • Dr. Joan Leland warns Dr. Harleen Quinzel that most of the residents would eat a young doctor like Harleen for breakfast. By the end of the episode, Joker has put Harleen in a wheelchair, fulfilling Dr. Leland's warning and bringing it full circle.
    • Joan and Harleen walked pass the latter's future best friend Poison Ivy.
    • While The Joker is initially intent on leaving Batman unbothered (and then fleeing from Batman after he changes his mind and tries to murder him), Batman taunting him causes him to immediately lose all rational thought and immediately go for the kill. This wouldn't be the last time this weakness was exploited.
  • Freudian Couch: We see a montage of how Harley Quinn met The Joker while she gave him psychoanalysis. It starts with him on the couch, but as he twists Harleen's mind, Joker turns up in the psychiatrist's chair in later scenes, with her on the couch.
  • Freudian Excuse: The Joker exploits this for all this is worth with Dr. Quinzel to win her over to his side. He claims that he had an abusive father and only desires to make people laugh. Batman then reveals later to Harley that he has a "million" of those stories just to gain sympathy.
  • Freudian Excuse Is No Excuse: When Harley says that the Joker told her "secret things" he'd never told anyone else, Batman rattles off several of the Clown Prince of Crime's phony excuses for his atrocities. Batman also points out to her how the Joker has made countless sob stories just to gain sympathy. It almost causes Harley to pull a Heel–Face Turn, only to relapse into her old ways when she sees a flower and note from Joker.
  • Funny Background Event: Several, especially in the original comic book. In it, for example, when Harley Quinn fantasizes about a settled down domestic life with the Joker, you can see that in the living room, they have what seems to be two hanged rabbits suspiciously similar to Babs and Buster Bunny (no relation!) from Tiny Toon Adventures.
  • Good Is Not Soft: Batman while tied up pulls his Batman Gambit on Harley, knowing that Joker would come and be angry enough to stop her if she called him. He remains The Stoic as the Joker pushes her out the window, and focused on taking "Puddin'" down. He does flinch though when the Joker first hits Harley.
  • HAHAHA No: When Harley tells Batman that she and the Joker are in love, Batman's response is an uncharacteristic bout of hysterical laughter bordering on an Evil Laugh that actually terrifies Harley, before rather abruptly narrowing his eyes and coldly saying "You little fool. The Joker doesn't love anything except himself."
  • Hates Being Nicknamed: After throwing Harley through the window, Joker sneers, "And don't call me Puddin'."
  • Hidden Depths: Harleen not only earned a medical degree before her Start of Darkness, Adaptation Explanation Extrication aside, but she's the only intern at Arkham that we see, meaning she probably had to fight tooth and nail to get that coveted spot. However, the original comicbook heavily implies that she might just be sleeping her way to the top.
  • Honor Before Reason: Subverted, if not outright parodied, with Joker in the climax. Despite having Batman at his mercy, Joker lets him go (albeit while leaving him still tied up) and gives his pointy-eared foe a pass on this one as an "apology" for Harley's actions. Satisfied, Joker starts to leave...only to stop and reconsider as he's halfway out the door. Joker realizes that, Harley's interference or not, this is simply too good of an opportunity to finally kill Bats to just pass it up on a technicality.
  • Ignored Epiphany: At the end of the episode, Harley realizes Joker is too unhealthy for her - only to snap right back into her old infatuation when she sees a flower and note from him.
  • Ignore the Fanservice: The Joker is too busy plotting his take-down of Batman to pay any attention to a hot blonde in a see-through negligee kneeling on the table in front of him, inviting him to "rev up [his] Harley."
  • Imagine Spot: The graphic novel shows Harley's fantasies of living Happily Ever After with the Joker, whose murderous insanity is smoothly combined with the veneer of a Standard '50s Father (e.g. giving lethal explosive cigars to the doctors at Harley's maternity bed).
    • Also in the graphic novel: after Harley calls him to come see her kill Batman, the Joker imagines Penguin, Two-Face, and Riddler mocking him as "the guy whose girlfriend killed Batman". This doesn't exactly improve his mood.
  • Instant Sedation: Harley captures Batman by injecting him with some sort of tranquilizer, which knocks him out cold in a second.
  • Ironic Echo:
    • During the therapy session with Harley, Joker recalls his happiest memory with his abusive father, claiming "There was only one time I ever saw Dad really happy: he took me to the circus when I was seven." Later, when Batman is exposing how Joker's "tragic background" is all a ruse, he shares the one "memory" Harley thought only she knew: "There was only one time I ever saw Dad really happy: he took me to the ice show when I was seven." Although the mentioned location differs, which a teary-eyed Harley points out, it does put her memory of sharing secrets with the Joker in a whole new light.
    • In a flashback, the Joker sympathetically tells Harleen a cruel lesson in comedy to live by from his abusive father (if he existed): You always take shots from folks who don't get the joke. Fast-forward to Harley capturing Batman and hanging him over a piranha pool, she makes the mistake of explaining to the Joker why it's funny. He repeats the same lesson to her in anger before smacking her out of the building.
    • Harley always calls Joker "Puddin'" with affection, though tends to annoy him. Batman calls him this in mocking fashion, which sets him off.
  • Is That What He Told You?: When Harley says that the Joker told her "secret things" he'd never told anyone else, Batman rattles off several of the Joker's phony sob stories, including one almost identical to the account he'd given Harley.
  • Kirk Summation: Batman gives a rather smug one to the Joker on top of the train, explaining that his Batman Gambit was the only way he could have escaped.
  • Lighter and Softer: Relatively speaking. The story doesn't lose its overall mature tone on Harley's unhealthy obsession with the Joker but some changes are made so a comic book story can transition into an animated episode. Harley isn't shown seducing her professor. The Joker's physical confrontations with Batman, while intense, are comparatively less bloody than what was shown in the comic book story. And Joker's confrontation with Harley is altered because in the comics, he grabbed the swordfish and swung it hard, hitting Harley with all his might. In this episode, he grabs it and jabs Harley in the stomach with its tail end to knock her out the window, which is still evil and callous but in this case, Joker didn't display the sheer maniacal rage towards her in the defenestration that he did in the original story.
  • Lima Syndrome: Harley fell hard for the Joker while she was employed at Arkham.
  • Mad Love: Adapted from the Trope Namer. The ending shows just how much Joker has a hold on her even after she sees his true colors.
  • Mood Whiplash: Joker intentionally employs this when regaling Harley of his childhood when he tried to make his father laugh by behaving like the clowns he saw him enjoying at the circus only to cut off Harley mid-laugh by revealing his father's response was to break his nose.
  • Moving the Goalposts: Harley equates that the reason Joker has been holding back on affection lately is because he's stumped over how to give Batman "Death by a Hundred Smiles" if the piranhas in his plan can't smile. In Harley's mind, she thought that if she helped find a way around this, he'd be happier. When she solves it for him (by hanging Batman upside-down) and points it out, he's furious at the fact that she had to explain it to him. One can interpret that the only reason Joker is bringing up this rule is to have an excuse to get mad at Harley for unwittingly one-upping him at defeating Batman.
  • Multiple-Choice Past: The Joker has "a million" sob stories about his childhood to tell to anyone willing to listen. As Batman notes in the graphic novel, like any professional comedian, he uses whatever material will work.
  • Murder the Hypotenuse: This is Harley's truly deranged goal: without the Batman, she's convinced that the Joker can be hers at last!
  • Near-Villain Victory: Batman even admits this to the Joker in his "The Reason You Suck" Speech, that Harley came closer to killing him than he ever did.
  • Never Bring a Knife to a Fist Fight: A very enraged Joker attacks Batman, and seems to be giving him more trouble in a fistfight than he usually does... until he pulls out a knife, and Batman instantly knocks him off the train.
  • Never Found the Body: Discussed and Invoked by Batman. He tells Harley that even if she did kill him, the Joker wouldn't believe it because his remains could appear faked, noting that even though she has his utility belt, the Joker still won’t believe it without seeing Batman’s body. He says this to trick her into telling the Joker to come over.
  • Never Heard That One Before: During their first conversation, The Joker points out how Dr. Harleen Quinzel's name sounds especially like "Harlequin", a type of clown. The good doctor notes with some subdued annoyance that it's hardly the first time anyone's pointed that out to her.
  • Never My Fault: After the Joker kicks her out for pestering him with her seduction attempts, Harley gives a fairly accurate description of what a mess her life has become. She then declares that it's all Batman's fault.
  • Never Recycle Your Schemes: Averted. In "The Laughing Fish", the Joker hoped to use his Joker smile formula on piranhas, to make the victims think their predators are smiling before killing them, but the formula was unsuccessful on them. However, Harley figures out that she should turn the victim upside down so that the piranhas seem to smile after all.
  • No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: Harleen's whole origin story is one big example: she became a psychiatrist in order to help people, and wants to help the Joker after hearing one (bogus) stories about his abusive childhood eventually believing he's just a poor, misunderstood soul being persecuted by mean old Batman.
  • No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: Joker delivers one to Harley after the latter calls him to see her kill Batman. Normally Harley holds out on her own, but she's shocked that Joker would get angry at her for carrying out his plans and improving on it. It culminates in him pushing her out the window and not even checking if she survived.
  • No One Could Survive That!: The Gotham news thinks it unlikely that the Joker could have survived falling into that smokestack, though the reporter notes that he's survived this kind of thing before. Their first instinct is correct, however, since the flower and card at the end mean he's survived again. This is further lampshaded in the graphic novel: when Batman knocks him into the smokestack, Joker screams "Not again!" in frustrationnote ... meaning this isn't the first time he's ever fallen into a smokestack?
  • Not Distracted by the Sexy: The episode is set off when Harley's attempt at courting Joker is met with angry refusal. Joker is busy in the middle of coming up with his next scheme to kill Batman and finds her advances very annoying instead of arousing, eventually kicking her out of the lair to keep her out of his hair.
  • Offscreen Villain Dark Matter: Where did Harley get that Joker robot that speaks in Joker's voice and all those piranhas? The comic at least explains where the piranhas came from, but not the robot...
  • Oh, Crap!: Batman is actually shocked to see Joker backhand Harley.
  • The Only One Allowed to Defeat You: One of the reasons why the Joker is so angry at Harley for pulling off one of his plans. When she tries to calm him down by explaining it is still his plan but she just modified it slightly so it works, Joker just gets even angrier since she had to explain it to him,
  • Origins Episode: How Dr. Harleen Quinzel became Harley Quinn.
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business:
    • Batman almost never laughs, so Harley immediately detects something seriously amiss when he starts laughing and it freaks her out.
    • When Batman is telling Harley all the sob stories the Joker has fed to people throughout the years, he sounds legitimately furious to even be repeating them. Considering how many of them seem to fall under him having abusive parents, and Bruce's relationship with his own parents, it likely personally offends him to see the Joker throw his own under the bus just to gain some unearned sympathy.
    • During the final fight Batman punches the Joker off a train and down a smokestack. As this is likely to be fatal, the implication seems to be he was so disgusted by what the Joker did to Harley that he was willing to break his Thou Shall Not Kill rule this time.
  • Out-Gambitted: Harley Quinn actually gets Batman to fall for one of her traps, but then he uses one of his own gambits to exploit both her feelings and the Joker's predictable reaction.
    Batman: She almost had me, you know. Arms and legs chained, dizzy from the blood rushing to my head... I had no way out other than convincing her to call you. I knew your massive ego would never allow anyone else the honor of killing me, though I have to admit she came a lot closer than you ever did... puddin'!
  • Pet the Dog: Played with. At the end of the story, as a 'consolation' for throwing her out the window, the Joker leaves a flower and Get-Well-Soon note in Harley's cell. Clearly, this is a method to keep Harley romantically attached to him despite what he did earlier, and unfortunately, it works on her.
  • Perpetual Frowner: This is discussed when Joker remembers he scrapped one of his old plans due to being unable to get piranhas to smile, even with his Joker Venom. Harley finds a workaround by getting their frowns to look like smiles by lowering Batman into the tank upside-down.
  • Piranha Problem: One of Joker's death traps, "The Death of a Hundred Smiles" involved dropping Batman into a giant tank of piranhas. He scrapped the plan because he couldn't get the fish to smile, even with his Joker Venom, but Harley made it work by dropping Batman in headfirst so that their frowns would look like smiles. Batman exploits the fact the piranhas will strip him to the bone and leave no recognizable evidence behind that it was him that was eaten to get Harley to call Joker over.
  • Post-Treatment Lollipop: Mentioned by Harley as she taunts Comissioner Gordon:
    Harley: Naughty, naughty! Jump around like that and doctor won't give you a lollipop.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Dr. Joan Leland towards Harleen Quinzel; the former is nice to the latter following their initial meeting, while gently telling her that the Arkham interns are bigger than a first-year psychiatry resident can handle.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech:
    • Batman gives the Joker one after he breaks free from his bonds. Unlike him, Harley managed to subdue Batman and nearly succeeded in finishing him off.
    • Batman gives one to Harley for having served the Joker for so long and believing that he ever cared about her.
  • Relocating the Explosion: When the Joker throws a hand grenade into Gordon's lap, Batman grabs it and hurls it out the window where it explodes.
  • Sdrawkcab Alias: When Joker is pretending to be a dentist at the beginning, the plaque on the door reads, Dr. J. Reko D.D.S.
  • Secretly Selfish: When Dr. Leland is sizing up Harleen's motive for wanting to intern at Arkham, the latter simply claims she did it because the inmates here are "more exciting, more challenging". Dr. Leland presses "And more high-profile?" Harleen doesn't deny it, saying there's a "glamour" to super criminals, hinting her intentions for interning at Arkham aren't the most altruistic. To this, Dr. Leland warns Harleen working Arkham is not for the faint of heart, and doing it to cash in on making a tell-all book is not worth the psychological hardships it poses.
  • Series Finale: For the whole BTAS collection. (In airing order; in production order "Judgment Day" was the last to be produced.)
  • Sextra Credit: In the graphic novel, Harleen Quinzel is shown getting a bad grade on a thesis of hers, and then leaving one of her professors Sex Dressed in his office while she walks out with a perfect grade on that same thesis.
  • Shark Pool: Done with piranhas. The Joker had concocted it as one of his many potential ways of eliminating Batman, but gave up on it because there was no way to make it funny. He had wanted to call it the "Death of a Thousand Smiles", but piranhas are incapable of smiling, even when given Joker-Venom. Harley Quinn tried to implement the plan herself to impress him, reasoning that the frowns would look like smiles if you lowered Batman into the tank upside-down. Joker was furious, however, because she had to explain the joke.
  • Shout-Out: The frame of Harley's backstory is almost identical to Clarice Starling's in The Silence of the Lambs. Young impressionable Psychiatrist/FBI agent in training is sent to psychoanalyse a psychotic killer and instead is disarmed and psychoanalysed by the killer himself. Much like Starling, Harley is also implied to be hiding her much lower class accent.
  • Shown Their Work: As this episode points out, a Domestic Abuse couple doesn't start out with the abusive partner being mean. The Joker makes himself out to be a sad sack to Harley, while making her laugh and winning her over gradually. In the present, he's given up on that act, though Harley hopes that killing Batman will revert him back to that self.
  • Significant Anagram: While disguised as a dentist, the Joker goes by J. Reko.
  • Smokestack Drop: Batman and the Joker are fighting on top of a moving train. As the Joker finally pulls out a knife, Batman delivers such a fierce uppercut that it sends Joker flying off the train and falling, screaming, down a smokestack. Batman stands silently on the roof of the train, knowing all too well the Joker will be back.
  • Snap Back: Harley gives up on the Joker at the end, and then falls back in love with him just as the episode concludes. This, alas, is entirely in character for her — see Chronic Villainy above.
  • Standard Snippet: In the comic, the "Rev Up Your Harley" scene began with Harley singing, "I Feel Pretty" from West Side Story. Of course, this couldn't be done in the animated adaptation, because they would've had to pay a hefty amount of money to the Leonard Bernstein estate.
  • Start of Darkness: Harley's downward spiral into villainy and Mad Love is displayed in flashbacks, more detailed in the graphic novel.
  • Stating the Simple Solution: Harley asks Joker the trope-naming question "Why Don't You Just Shoot Him?" in regards to dealing with Batman. Ironically, he comes remarkably close to taking her advice later on.
  • Stock Shout-Out: The notorious "rev up your Harley" scene has been alluded to over and over again in practically every Batman canon that has Harley and Joker together, using either the dialogue, or the red nightie, or both.
  • Stupid Evil: The Joker comes across this way. Had he not been such a Sadist and megalomanic he had to kill Batman himself, Batman would probably be fish food. But he was, and Batman was able to play on that.
  • Suddenly Shouting: When Harley calls him, the Joker speaks in an uninterested tone... until she gets to the part where she's about to kill Batman.
    Joker: Batman, eh? Well, you don't say... YOU HAVE WHO TIED UP WHERE!?!
  • Symbolism:
    • The first time Harleen has a therapy session with Joker, she's the one in the therapist's chair while Joker's in the reclining chair, as though indicating Harleen has control here (or in Joker's case, the illusion of control). Later, when Joker is giving Harleen the therapy session, their roles have switched: he's in the therapist chair and she's sitting in the recliner. Rather effectively, it has the ominous effect of signifying that Joker now has control over Harleen's mind.
    • When Joker pushes Harley out the window, the sound of the window breaking not only signifies the metaphorical "breaking point" where Joker's abuse has gone too far, but also the sound of Harley's heart breaking.
    • Harleen Quinzel once had a lower vocal range, which can be interpreted as an indicator of how much she has a grip on her sanity. When she changes into her Harley Quinn persona and uses her higher, more excitable vocal range the audience is familiar with, it's meant to mark the instant Harleen's lost her mind and become the clown girl we know. After the Joker's latest abuse has put her in a wheelchair, we hear her inner-monologue in her Harleen Quinzel voice once more, as though for a moment she's found her reason. Hearing her slip back into her Harley voice when she's won over by Joker's get-well gift effectively drives home the extent that Joker's quickly robbed her moment of clarity.
  • Themed Aliases: The Joker poses as "Dr. J. Reko". (In the graphic novel, it's "Dr. Laffo" instead.)
  • Train Escape: The Joker thinks he has escaped Batman when landing on a train top and is Blowing a Raspberry at Batman. But the latter pulls a Stealth Hi/Bye and a Traintop Battle between the two ensues.
  • Unexplained Recovery: This episode features Batman punching Joker off a moving track and directly into a factory's smokestack. He survives, of course, and by this point his ability to survive anything is so taken for granted that the writers don't even make a cursory attempt to Hand Wave it.
  • Ungrateful Bastard: Harley gave up her career and internship at Arkham by busting an injured Joker out of the asylum. Joker at the end of this episode, set in the present sends her back to Arkham in a wheelchair, after giving her a No-Holds-Barred Beatdown. This almost snaps her back to sanity.
  • The Unsmile: But with laughter. Batman's laughter is so creepy and unpleasant that Harley is weirded out by it.
  • Villain Episode: Batman is at most a secondary character in this story, and could even be called a Hero Antagonist; Harley is the star.
  • Villainy Discretion Shot: We cut away to Batman wincing as Joker backhands Harley across the room.
  • Vocal Dissonance: Harley during her time as sane Harleen Quinzel has a lower vocal range, as well as less excitement in her tone. At the end this range shows up, as she decides to quit Mr. J cold turkey... up until she sees the Get Well Card from him and a flower.
  • Wham Episode: After spending the majority of the series with Harley as the Joker's Perky Female Minion, we finally learn her backstory, and it recontextulizes nearly everything we knew about her.
  • Why Don't Ya Just Shoot Him?: The Trope Namer. Harley asks Joker this near the beginning, which pisses him off. It's not enough for Joker to merely kill Batman, he has to outsmart him, prove he's the bigger genius. Also, it has to be funny. Later, Joker decides just shooting him may be the best option after all, but is so preoccupied in punishing Harley, it allows Batman to escape.
    Joker: Just shoot him?!
  • Worthy Opponent: Batman outright admits that Harley almost had him and the only way he was able to escape was by tricking her into calling Joker as "proof" he would be dead soon, knowing Joker's ego wouldn't allow anyone else the honor of killing him. But he still admits that Harley came closer to killing him than Joker himself ever did. Part of this is also just to piss Joker off even more, given how Batman mockingly calls him "Puddin" at the end of it.
  • Wounded Gazelle Gambit: Harley combines this with I Surrender, Suckers to lure Batman into her trap. (That's right, she actually tricked Batman into falling for one of The Oldest Tricks in the Book.)
  • You Fool!: Batman calls Harley a "little fool" for thinking she and the Joker would have a happy ending together.


The Joker


How well does it match the trope?

4.96 (46 votes)

Example of:

Main / DontExplainTheJoke

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